The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

32° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Red Dragon: Hopkins Lacks Luster, But Fiennes Shines

    A Terrorist By Any Other Name

    I was reallytrying to score last night. To achieve this goal, I turned to the reliabledinner-and-a-movie format, garnished with a few spices chosen to ‘?kick itup a notch.’ Hoping that the setting would give us something to eithersavor or stew about, I decided to take my date to a local haute cuisinerestaurant.

    The clienteleranged from well-heeled romantic couples celebrating their anniversaries toSean Connery types, thinning hair slicked back into ponytails (circa 1980),trying to impress their trophy dates. The tables were adorned with a vast arrayof cutlery that would have made a surgeon turn green with envy.

    I was feelingsaucy and adventurous. About to throw down in a night what I would usuallyspend in half a month, I was determined to order the most outrageous andforeign delicacy that the restaurant could legally serve.

    Red Dragon, theprequel to the wildly popular The Silence of the Lambs, opens in a similarsetting with Doctor Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, digitally made to appearyounger) serving an orchestra member to a group of nattily dressed would-begourmands and oenophiles. The guests, board members of the Baltimore SymphonyOrchestra, lament the disappearance of the flautist while chowing down on hisvital organs, prepared expertly by Lecter and resembling all too closely themeal that I myself digested.

    Later thatevening, Lecter is visited by FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton). Graham isinvestigating, with Lecter’s help, a series of killings in which variousbody parts of the victims are missing. Graham posits that the killer is notmerely taking trophies, but is actually devouring the body parts. Lecter makesan excuse to leave the room. During his absence, Graham finds a book of humananatomy with scribbled page notes that one might otherwise find inBarron’s Food Lover’s Companion. Graham surmises he is in the homeof the man he seeks. The investigator’s visage then displays in onesingular moment confusion, realization, shock, anger, and instinct, but beforehe can ready his pistol, Lecter returns with a stiletto to inflict bloodyhavoc. Both men are critically wounded, but survive.

    After thisexciting introduction, director Brett Ratner returns us to the familiar Lambsformula with Lecter acting as the caged cannibalistic consultant audiences knowand love. His third time out, Anthony Hopkins can play Hannibal Lecter withnary a gesture, but his expertise is a double-edged sword. The actor’smotionless visage is enough to evoke all we fear about Lecter’sstill-life insanity, but the chills have all but worn off, as Hannibal Lecteris Anthony Hopkins and vice-versa. Lecter is reduced to a legendary character whoseability to scare us was first dulled by fava-bean punch lines and cinematicparody, and then finally destroyed by the gory black comedy that was RiddleyScott’s Hannibal.

    Edward Nortonplays his role with the enthusiasm and authority that Julianne Moore totally lackedin Hannibal. Norton’s Will Graham is totally believable as a man whosefeelings of fear (mostly of himself) and duty to save lives are constantly atwar. His rare and off the cuff humor lends credibility to a role that withouthis involvement may have seemed dull and utilitarian. However, the format ofthe film merely places him in the shoes of Jodie Foster’s replacement,and it is hard to see him as a new character.

    The real changeof the film surrounds its new villain, the ‘tooth fairy,’ played fantastically(and mostly in the buff) by Ralph Fiennes. Whereas Norton works wonders withinthe lines, Fiennes brings to the picture emotional depth that goes far beyondthe script, which was penned by Lambs scribe Ted Tally. He beautifully detailsthe mind of a killer, and is the only character that really affects theaudience. We believe him when he leaps out to bite a body part, and moreimportantly, we can feel his own mind shudder as he does it. The tremble in hisdisfigured voice resonates with the tremble in our hearts. His dual nature isfascinating and is the only real character progression in the film.

    But in the end,this is the H
    annibal Lecter show and as such, the film ultimately fails toreinvent itself. The format is still the same: shots of the FBI working on thenew case juxtaposed with shots of Lecter moving to bite off noses. ThoughHopkins plays so thoroughly that we can set a metronome to the rhythm of hisveins, he does little to affect our own pulse. Perhaps the biggest fault of thissupposed prequel is that though Lecter is younger, and has not yet learned howto control the world outside of his cell, he acts more tired and desperate thanever. Gone are the penetrating questions about his subject’s mind andpersonal life so prevalent in Lambs. The best Lecter can do this time out isschool-yard bully ‘?How is the lovely Molly?’ Though Brett Ratnerhas given us a faithful and immaculate retelling of The Silence of the Lambs,there is nothing to make us believe that this is a prequel, and certainlynothing–besides Fiennes’ brilliant performance–to make this movie itsown.

    Red Dragon

    United States,2002

    Cast: AnthonyHopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-LouiseParker, Philip Seymour Hoffman

    Director: BrettRatner

    Producer: DinoDe Laurentiis

    Original Story:Thomas Harris

    Screenplay: TedTally

    Cinematography:Dante Spinotti

    Music: DannyElfman


    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Statesman

    Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The Statesman

    Comments (0)

    All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *